H.H. Holmes and Jack the Ripper are two of the most notorious serial killers in history. While Holmes was convicted of his crimes and sentenced to death, the identity of Jack the Ripper remains a mystery.
But Holmes's great-great-grandson, Jeff Mudgett, has a theory. He believes that H.H. Holmes and Jack the Ripper are the same person, and that one brilliant man was committing gruesome killings on two continents over the same period of time.
Could this be true? Read through this list to consider the evidence.
In 2006, Scotland Yard and the BBC created a composite photo of Jack the Ripper using eyewitness accounts from 1888. The resulting photo on the left looks very much like H.H. Holmes, pictured on the right.
Jeff Mudgett took the two photos to retired investigators, who agreed that Holmes bore a striking resemblance to the suspected Jack the Ripper. In fact, both investigators said this was the closest match to a composite photo that they had ever seen. (You might think the distinctive mustache alone is a dead giveaway, but elaborate facial hair was very popular with men in the 1800s.)
While the resemblance is hard to deny, the photo evidence doesn't quite line up with the theory that Mudgett presents in his book Bloodstains. He argues that Holmes sent an assistant to commit the Ripper murders, so Holmes would not have been present for any eyewitnesses to identify.
The "Dear Boss" letter was believed to have been written by Jack the Ripper. It was received by the Central News Agency of London on September 27, 1888, and forwarded to Scotland Yard on September 29. In the letter, the killer described his plan to cut the ears off his next victim. On September 30, the body of Catherine Eddowes was found with one earlobe severed. While it was never proven that the Ripper wrote the "Dear Boss" letter, the mention of cutting a victim's ear was a chilling reference. The letter was not published in the papers until after Eddowe's body was found, meaning this could have been a real connection to the killer.
A handwriting analysis expert recommended by the British Library compared the "Dear Boss" letter to a known handwriting sample from H.H. Holmes. The expert concluded that it was written by the same hand.
Just to be safe, Jeff Mudgett sent the samples for computer analysis to confirm the expert's findings. The computer results showed there was a 97.95% chance that H.H. Holmes wrote the "Dear Boss" letter.
Jack the Ripper's hunting ground was the Whitechapel neighborhood of London. H.H. Holmes also had a connection to Whitechapel. His friend from the University of Michigan, Edmund Buckley, came from a wealthy Whitechapel family. Buckley and Holmes were partners-in-crime; they ran insurance scams and often sold corpses to medical facilities, not an uncommon way to make money in the 1800s.
According to census records, Holmes had a residence in Whitechapel. After he tried to sell a corpse to a local hospital, a formal complaint was filed against him. These records place him in the Whitechapel area around the time of the Ripper murders. Was he doing more than just his usual corpse-peddling?
There are five victims, known as the Canonical Five, who are widely believed to have been killed by Jack the Ripper. Their murders span from August 31 to November 9, 1888.
We know that H.H. Holmes purchased the land to build his Chicago Murder Castle in July 1888. It may seem unlikely that Holmes would travel to London immediately afterwards, but construction on his "castle" didn't begin until the spring of 1889. In fact, there is no record of him being in Chicago at all that winter. Perhaps Holmes took a winter holiday in London to get an early start on his killing spree?